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  • Sister Clare Josef-Maier

Hearth & Table - November 24, 2020

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Why yes, that is polenta again peeking out from under the piled roasted veggies, homemade tomato sauce, and pumpkin seeds.

As we enjoy the end of "harvest season," we didn't want to miss another chance to pumpkin-it-up. Polenta is not a hugely popular base among the students we serve, and we promise not to overdo it. But if you haven't looked into the surprising variety of ways there are to prepare polenta, we encourage you to check it out!

There's creamy, porridge-like polenta, or you can prepare it as a firm, flat base instead of crust... or anything in between! The difference is how much water you use in the preparation and the way you use your heat elements. Polenta is very inexpensive and corn-based. It may not be totally fair to call it nutritious, but it is filling. Here's the recipe we used this week.

Pumpkin polenta w/ roasted veggies & easy tomato sauce

Serves 6


Pumpkin Polenta:

6 C water

1 1⁄2 C coarse-ground cornmeal (a.k.a. polenta)

1 sm. can pumpkin puree

1 lemon, zest & juice

Salt & pepper to taste

Easy Tomato Sauce:

2 T olive oil

2 onions, small diced

1⁄2 head garlic, cloves peeled and sliced

1 T dried basil

1 - 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Salt & pepper to taste

1-2 lbs roasted vegetables, kept warm

*see “Roasted Vegetable Guide”, below*

Pumpkin seeds to garnish (optional)


1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Using a whisk, slowly stir in the polenta. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low. Using a wooden spoon, stir the polenta frequently (don’t let it stick to the bottom of the pot!) for about 15-20 minutes, or until the polenta is fairly tender. Mix in the pumpkin puree, lemon zest & lemon juice, and season to taste (salt & pepper). Cover and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan or small pot, melt the 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn the heat to medium and add the garlic and dried basil. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, then add the crushed tomatoes. Stir well, then season to taste.

3. Serve the polenta topped with the tomato sauce, roasted veggies, and pumpkin seeds (if using).

Roasted Vegetable Guide – Oven usually at 400. Cut vegetables bite-sized or a little smaller. Try to get them as uniform in size as possible. Most vegetables can be prepped in advance, though onions and garlic should be fresh. Toss each separately with oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and put in a single layer on a sheet pan. Cook veggies separately and combine at the end. Season with an interesting spice or spice blend and/or fresh herbs. Be sure to get some acidity in there as well... some lemon juice or a splash of vinegar. You can vary the seasoning with the same produce to get different


Cook for how long? Simple answer is to taste and check for doneness, but it helps to have a guide:

Potatoes: 35 min

Onions: 25 min

Zucchini: 15 min

Broccoli: 15 min

Cauliflower: 20 min

Turnips: 25 min

Asparagus: 7 min

Fennel bulb: 20 min

Mushrooms: 40 min

Tomatoes: 15 min

Kale/collard greens: 15 min

Cabbage: 25 min

Brussels sprouts: 25 min

Bell peppers: 12 min

Winter squash: 30 min

(Assume items are cut bite-sized or a little smaller, and oven is at 400 degrees. And oven door stays mostly closed.)

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